You have heard of cherries and berries, but have you heard of the ground cherry or gooseberry?
Quite often, these two fruits get mistaken for one another, or at the very least, called by each other’s name. Especially the ground cherry, as it is frequently (and mistakenly) referred to as a gooseberry.
Both the ground cherry and the gooseberry are unique and relatively mysterious fruits that not many people know much about. This brings up the question of what are these fruits and why are they being compared here?
So, what is the difference between a ground cherry and a gooseberry? Ground cherries tend to look like a yellow cherry tomato whereas a gooseberry, when unripe, is a light green color and, when ripe, resembles a purple grape. Ground cherries taste sweet and tart and a bit tropical, while gooseberries taste like an extremely tart grape when unripe and a sweet grape when ripe.
Keep reading to learn about the major differences between a ground cherry and a gooseberry, as well as their taste, texture, uses, and whether or not they are easy to find.
What Is A Ground Cherry?
Ground cherries are a part of the Solanaceae family, otherwise known as the nightshade family. Other fruits in the nightshade family are tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, and hot peppers.
They grow in a similar way to these other fruits but tend to often grow close to the ground, hence the name.
They are small and shaped like a grape tomato and they are a yellowish-green color. When growing on their vine, they are covered in a rough husk that needs to be peeled to get to the fruit itself, exactly like a tomatillo.
Ground cherries need a specific climate to grow, and they do well in temps from about 65-85°F; they do not do well in cold climates and cannot survive any type of snow or frost.
Because ground cherries need a specific climate for growth, they are quite hard to come by. They are most popular in Asia, Central America (specifically Mexico,) and South America.
What Is The Texture Of A Ground Cherry?
There are a few parts to the ground cherry so it has multiple textures.
The ground cherry grows in a husk that is thin and paper-like that can crinkle in your hands. It needs to be removed before eating and is like the husk on a tomatillo.
The husk is inedible and should be discarded.
The ground cherry itself is a lot like a cherry tomato even in texture. It has a smooth-skinned barrier that gets bitten into and the inside is juicy and liquid. The skin on the outside ensures the liquid of the fruit stays on the inside.
What Does A Ground Cherry Smell And Taste Like?
The smell of a ground cherry is quite subtle. It can be a bit tropical smelling, having hints of pineapple, but also smells a bit like a tomato.
Because they are a part of the nightshade family, ground cherries tend to taste like other fruits and vegetables in that same group.
Specifically, ground cherries taste like a tomato. They have been described to have a tart and slightly sweet and tropical taste; they are a cross between a cherry tomato and a grape.
So they are a bit sweet, but also have a bit of tartness to them. The juice that comes from biting into the fruit is what holds most of the flavor.
However, it is important to eat the ground cherries only when they are ripe and ready to go. Not only will they taste bad if they are not ripe, but they could be poisonous.
Ground Cherry Warning
You must be careful when eating ground cherries right off the plant. If they are not ripe enough, they can be poisonous.
As with most nightshades, ground cherries contain solanine and solanine alkaloids which are poisonous to consume. They are found in unripe ground cherries that are a green color.
The toxins self-remove as soon as the fruit is ripe and transformed to a yellow-orange color. Just make sure your ground cherries are ripe, with no trace of green coloring before consuming!
Ways To Use Ground Cherries
Ground cherries are a unique and hard-to-find fruit, but that does not mean they are not versatile. They work well in both sweet and savory recipes.
Ground cherries can be eaten raw and right off the vine as a snack. They can also be included in salsa recipes in addition to tomatoes or tomatillos.
Include them in a dessert like a ground cherry pie, a cake, cheesecake, scones, or a tart, or add ground cherries to a salad for a fresh and unique flavor!
Chop them up into a bruschetta and serve it over freshly toasted bread for an appetizer, or make a ground cherry jam and spread it on said freshly toasted bread for breakfast.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless when it comes to ground cherries!
Are Ground Cherries Easy to Find in Grocery Stores?
Because ground cherries can only grow in a specific climate, they are extremely hard to find worldwide.
You may get lucky at a local farmers market, but even then, you might fall short. Oftentimes, they must be imported but they are not in high demand in the United States.
Ground cherries are mostly found in places like New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. So, if you are in any of those countries, you may be in luck.
Depending on where you live, and whether or not you have a green thumb, you can attempt to grow them.
The seeds are easily available online and usually come with extensive directions.
What Is A Gooseberry?
Now that we have talked about ground cherries, let’s look at the gooseberry.
The gooseberry is a part of the Grossulariaceae family which also includes black currant.
Gooseberries grow in shrubs or bushes but can grow up a stalk if properly tended to.
Like a ground cherry, gooseberries are small in size and can be compared to the size of a cherry tomato.
When they are unripe, they look a bit like a watermelon as it is a bright green color that is comparable to that of a green grape, with watermelon-like stripes around it.
When they become ripe, they turn a deep purple color that can be compared to a grape.
Gooseberries do well in cool and moist climates and are native to San Francisco in the United States and Germany, Russia, and Poland in Europe.
Like ground cherries, gooseberries are hard to come by.
What Is The Texture Of A Gooseberry?
The gooseberry’s texture can be compared to many different types of fruits.
It is similar to a grape, cherry tomato, and even a ground cherry.
Like these fruits, the gooseberry has a smooth-skinned barrier that gets bitten into and the inside is juicy and liquidy. The skin on the outside ensures the liquid of the fruit stays on the inside.
What Does A Gooseberry Smell And Taste Like?
Gooseberries do not have a very potent smell. They are slightly fruity smelling, but it is very subtle, similar to a ground cherry.
The taste of a gooseberry however varies based on its ripeness. Unripe gooseberries taste extremely tart and are comparable to a green grape.
When gooseberries become riper, they begin to taste a lot sweeter and more like a red grape. The taste has been described as a mixture of kiwi, melon, and vanilla.
Ways To Use Gooseberries
Gooseberries work best in sweeter recipes; however, there are a few savory exceptions.
Gooseberries can be eaten by themselves as a snack, both ripe and unripe.
They can be made into a compote or jam and spread on a scone or toasted piece of bread. Gooseberries also work well in tarts, crumbles, and cakes
If you want to use it in a savory dish, include it in a salad for a bright pop of sweetness.
Are Gooseberries Easy To Find In Grocery Stores?
Gooseberries, like ground cherries, are extremely hard to find.
Though they grow in places like San Francisco, they are not grown as often as other types of fruits. You may get lucky at a local farmers market, but I would not hold your breath.
One alternative if you wanted to try them would be buying canned gooseberries. They won’t be as fresh or maybe have as much flavor, but this makes them a lot more accessible.
Ground Cherry Vs Gooseberry
So, what are the major similarities and differences between these two fruits?
- Both the ground cherry and gooseberry are exclusive and extremely hard to find.
- They both resemble a small cherry tomato and grow in similar ways.
- They both have a subtle smell and nearly identical textures.
- They both work well in sweet recipes and can be eaten raw or cooked.
- Both the ground cherry and gooseberry taste tart at times.
- The gooseberry can be eaten both ripe and unripe, where the ground cherry is poisonous if not ripe.
- They are colored very differently as the ground cherry is yellowish-orange and the gooseberry is a bright green or purple.
- They grow in very different climates. The ground cherry likes hot weather, and the gooseberry likes cold and wet climates.
- Ground cherries taste much better than gooseberries in savory recipes as the gooseberry tends to be much sweeter than the ground cherry.
- You can easily find seeds to grow your own ground cherries, but you can find canned gooseberries quite easily.
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